Scout Report: Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Stoke

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Love or loathe their style, Stoke’s start to the season has put them in a position to achieve their best ever campaign in the top flight yet. Their already mean defence has this season tightened up even further and they can boast a league high of 8 clean sheets. At home they are particularly formidable, conceding just two goals and unbeaten at the Britannia since February which after us is the longest unbeaten home record in the top flight.

Stoke: A gradual evolution of playing style?

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Their clear threat is in the air where they have won the highest percentage of aerials (58%) in the top flight. In Begovic they have the biggest kicker in the division and he will instigate most Stoke attacks. Moyes looked to combat this last season by telling Jelavic to stand on the Serbian’s toes when he had the ball and force him to kick out of his hands (and not of the floor) meaning he can generate less distance on the ball. Fellaini was positioned in a deeper role to assist the centre backs in winning the ball from the kick outs or hovering up the second balls which is a trademark of the Belgian. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Fellaini swopped roles with Osman especially when we didn’t have the ball. The tactic worked to an extent, however Stoke’s most frequent passing combination was still Begovic to Crouch, a combination which took place 8 times.


Unsurprisingly, Stoke have the worst disciplinary record in the top flight with the most fouls per game (14.1) leading to 32 yellows and 2 reds with serial clogger Dean Whitehead  the dirtiest in the league with 5 yellow and 1 red despite starting just 6 games.  As long as the free kicks conceded are outside the box it won’t bother Stoke as they are so well drilled in defending set plays.

Passing wise, Reading’s arrival in the top flight means Stoke now have just the second worst average share of the ball (42%) and second worst pass completion (71%). Passing is focused down the right wing which will mean Pienaar will need to be a bit more defensively focused. Charlie Adam was brought in to develop their play and has been deployed in the advanced number 10 role since arriving which has yielded a few goals and assists. Adam is decent if you let him play on his left so we need to press him and keep him on his right. Generally they have struggled for goals and have not scored more than two in a game in their last 41 matches.

Moyes Dilemma

Moyes conundrum is deciding how much he wants to modify our expansive game to deal with the specific threats Stoke pose. For example, Anichebe is always selected against Stoke, usually in a wider role away from the centre backs. It’s a given that we will have 60% of the ball but Stoke will be happy with this. Like Pulis, Moyes approach is all about territory and less about dominating the ball and Moyes will look to defend high up the pitch, pushing Stoke’s strikers away from goal meaning their wide men can’t get into good crossing positions in the final third. When Moyes has tinkered too much or been forced to deploy square pegs in round holes this season we have invariably struggled to establish a rhythm on the ball with our key threats reduced. Whereas we are usually happy to invite the crosses and pack the 18 yard box, this tactics doesn’t work against Stoke as they showed the season before last when Kenwyne Jones scored from an Etherington delivery with little pressure on the ball from Neville.

At the back, Huth and Shawcross live and breathe defending crosses into the box and both possess the full repertoire of blocking runs, elbows and anything else that will give them an advantage. Last season, Stoke well and truly did a number on us in the fixture at Goodison in the kind of game that makes self-harm seem an appealing option. We had 33 crosses with none leading to an attempt on goal with a lack of movement in the box from us the key flaw.  If we are to cross they will need to be drilled / pulled back to the near post for Jelavic or stood up to the back post onto their less aerially equipped full backs for Fellaini to attack.  What the lumbering duo of  Huth and Shawcross don’t like is quick feet running at them with pace which is why the loss of Mirallas is a hammer blow. The speed and movement of players of that ilk is crucial against well organised sides as they can expose gaps before defensive shape is restored in counter attack situations. When Stoke do have the ball in the attacking third its vital that we break at pace with Gibson looking to start quick attacking 2 v 1 transitions with his long range pings from central to wide areas.


Selection wise, with Anichebe out, the only real options Moyes has to tweak aerially is Apostolos Velios. The Greek was well and truly schooled by Huth in last season’s fixture and I’d doubt Moyes will start him again here. Mirallas is out for a few weeks and Hibbert is unlikely to feature until the new year so Naismith will start in the only change from last week. For Stoke, Crouch and Adam should return for Jones and Whitehead whilst Ryan Shotton is suspended.


If you don’t bet your xmas shopping money on this being a draw you need to ask yourself some serious questions. Stoke and Everton are the league’s draw specialists with 50% of their games this season ending all square with the games between the two sides always tight. Simply everything about this one points to a draw. With our last 12 games featuring an efc goal and no clean sheet the 1-1 at 11/2 with willie hills looks decent. There has been just six goals in the last four meetings between the clubs and BetVictor will offer you 4/6 on under 2.5 goals. If you are confident we can eek out a win you can get 33/10 with ladbrokes for us to win by 1 goal.

 Finally, Neville Southall will be signing copies of his autobiography The Binman Chronicles in Llanelli this week – which we at EB can confirm is superb. The former Everton and Wales goalkeeper will be at WH Smith, Trostre and then at WH Smith, St Elli Shopping Centre on Saturday 15th December.James Corbett will also be signing copies of his Everton Encyclopedia this Saturday with former Everton manager, Howard Kendall. They will be at Waterstones, Birkenhead at 12:00 and then at Waterstones Bold Street 14:30.Its expected that all signing sessions will be busy, so its recommended to arrive early to avoid disappointment!

Physio Room Blog: Mirallas set to miss Stoke trip

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Like every other Evertonian inside Goodison, my heart sank to see Mirallas pull up and grasp the back of his thigh just before half time last Sunday.  Having watched in awe Gibson’s pin point passing, the out ball, to our flying winger, I knew we were in for a tough second half once Mirallas didn’t emerge for the second half.

I think the concern is this may be a recurrent problem for Mirallas, for this season anyway.  I had hoped after the good news of Mirallas’ scan that it was a niggle that would go away.  We’ve seen it time and time again though with young fast players (not so much at Everton as we’ve not had a flying winger since Kanchelskis) being prone to suffering these hamstring strains.  Ryan Giggs springs to mind and Michael Owen is another that has been plagued by hamstring and groin injuries.  Gareth Bale thankfully was missing against us because of a hamstring injury.

Reasons the hamstrings tear

Generally speaking the hamstrings are very stretchy especially in youngsters.  They don’t tend to tear from overstretching during running unless you’re a bit older.  The thing that struck me about Mirallas on Sunday is his hamstrings didn’t ‘pull’ whilst he was running full pelt so I doubt the injury reoccurred purely from just overstretching the hamstrings.  The other reason the hamstrings tend to tighten up is to protect the knee.  Every person with a knee injury I’ve ever assessed has always had increased tightness or spasm in the hamstrings behind the knee. Mirallas gripped the back of his thigh after a jinking run from the right wing area to the left side of the Spurs penalty area.  He was running but I suspect the hamstring tightness came on as a result of the twisting and turning occurring in the knee joint.  As the knee twists, the force of the body weight through the joint is transmitted through the 4 main ligaments, which resist this force to stop the knee collapsing.  The knee ligaments are packed with nerve endings that constantly fire messages to the brain and spinal cord telling our body what position the knee is in and to contract the muscles to change the position of the joint.  Sometimes the force through the ligaments causes them stretch to a point that a pain signal is triggered.  The body perceives pain as harm so the muscles around the knee, especially the hamstrings, tighten up around the joint to protect it from harm. For Mirallas, bearing down on goal, he carried on running and that’s when the hamstring tear may have occurred as he stretched against the body’s protective tightening of the muscle.

What can be done about it?

I talked in my last blog about how the hamstring tear can be treated but Mirallas will now have to embark on rehab training to prevent this injury becoming a persistent problem.  This involves specific strength work, not just to bulk up the muscle but also to gain better control through the muscles around the knee to improve balance and fine movements and better resist twisting movements.  This however takes time and is why Mirallas might not be free of this problem just yet.

Improving proprioception

Proprioception is a fancy word given to your balance reactions.  It’s a bit more than that though.  It’s your ability to know what position your joints are in and what force is required to perform a certain movement.  An example of this is to close your eyes, point your finger out to the side then place your finger on your nose.  Providing you’re not drunk and you managed to do it, how did you know what position your arm and hand were in order to touch your nose?  How did you know not to slam your hand into your face and break your own nose?  That’s the proprioceptive reaction.

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If you transfer this to running, your proprioception is the reaction that controls the fine movements of your leg.  The better your proprioception, the better control you have of your joints and therefore the less chance you have of injury.  Another example of this is to stand on one leg and keep your balance.  Now close your eyes and keep your balance.  How long did you manage?

Your proprioception can be trained to improve.  If you spend time standing on one leg with your eyes closed, you will find the more you practice the longer you can stand without falling over.

This is low-level stuff but is your basic starting point to improving your proprioception.  For Mirallas, rehab should be progressed to involve different types of balance exercises, practicing twisting movements and fine control of the knee joints through the range of movement.  On top of this, more traditional strength sessions in the gym to bulk up the hamstrings will no doubt take place.  For now, Mirallas should recover quickly from the current hamstrings pull and Moyes said he took him off as a precaution but expect Mirallas to be in and out of the side this season because of his hamstrings.

Expected return: 1-2 weeks.  West Ham away.

By Ross @UKPhysiotherapy

Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 2-1 Spurs

‘Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in’ …..was the line which sprung to mind as a resolute Everton came from behind to take something from a game for the eighth time this season amidst 88 seconds of mayhem….
Teams and Tactics
Moyes made 2 changes from last week with Mirallas and Coleman coming in on the right side for Naismith and the injured Hibbert in a 4-2-3-1. Spurs went 4-4-2 with Dempsey pitched in on the left flank for Bale with Adebayor and Defoe as the strike duo in an attacking line-up.
Passing / Territory Data
Possession wise, Spurs shaded it with 50.8% to 49.2% but we had more territory with  52.9% final third possession to  Spurs 47.1% with 35 v 18 penalty box touches in the Blues favour. This was translated into more chances with us having 20 shots to spurs 12. Of the shots we had, 65% came from inside Spurs 18 yard zone compared to Spurs  33% in our box.
First halfThe first half was all about us attacking down the right flank and with Spurs counter attacks predominantly down the left this area of the pitch witnessed most of the crucial action. Recently sides have targeted Spurs defensively frail left side and with Dempsey not holding his position when Spurs were not in possession we were easily able to engineer 2v1’s down this flank with Coleman and Mirallas giving Vertonghen a good going over. The Belgian picked up a booking for his troubles and with Mirallas direct running and Coleman – who seems to save his best displays for Spurs – always showing for an overlap a red looked likely.
Spurs also played a high line with an unconvincing offside trap which meant the ‘out-ball’ into the wide gulleys from Gibson was always on. The Irishman was the best player on the pitch; making the most passes (52) and best accuracy but what was most crucial was his quick long passes from central to wide areas which kept pressure on spurs full backs. He completed 12/14 long balls with an overall pass completion of 96.3% in Spurs half – the highest of any player on the pitch – and 92.3% completion in the final third.
Second half
In the second half without the ‘out ball’ to Mirallas we went longer to Fellaini – a move which paid limited dividends. The Belgian endured a subdued afternoon; he was dispossessed the most (6) and made more unforced errors (5) of anyone on the pitch. Spurs are a capable outfit and played well in the second half especially on the counter and after Dempsey had given them the lead could have been out of sight with Sigurdsson’s shot hitting the bar. The North London outfit do concede lots of goals late on in games (10 goals to the tune of 14pts in the last 15mins of matches) and given our fitness and with the extra days rest you thought we would get a chance if we kept applying pressure especially given that Spurs had by now dropped quite deep and were basically defending their 18 yard line.The two goals came when Fellaini had moved into a deeper midfield role with Velios up top. Firstly, amidst chaos in the Spurs area, Caulker unnecessarily hacked a clearance his keeper Lloris had covered, enabling Naismith to play in Coleman who showed great composure to pick out a nice cross for Pienaar to head home. With Spurs rocking, Coleman took a quick throw to Gibson whose delivery was aerobically flicked on by sub Velios for Jelavic to instinctively dart between the static Gallas and Caulker to tap home.
Final wordThis was a crucial win given that a Spurs victory would have seen us 6 points off the pace in the ‘race’ for fourth spot. We dominated the first period and should have gone in at the break in front and you wondered if it was going to be another tale of L4 woe. After the break Spurs had decent moments towards the end and will feel unfortunate to lose the game in the way they did but I’d say we were worthy winners.

Scout Report – Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Spurs

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Sunday’s visit of Spurs concludes a three game mini series against tricky opposition with a win for the Blues potentially sending us as high as third in the table. It won’t be easy though against a Spurs team in very good form and starting to gel under their new boss. After the recent spell of draws the game now appears to carry a ‘must win’ classification if we have serious ambitions for 4th spot given that a defeat could leave us six points adrift….

The AVB Project

Former manager Arry Redknapp’s approach to the game has been documented on here before in all its simplicity. Ex-forward Rafael Van Der Vaart once commented ‘we have a tactics board but Harry doesn’t use it’ with the wobbly headed crook’s pre match resembling a Mike Bassett style ‘Go and express yourselves’ approach.  After failing to remedy the same mistakes he made 12 months previously, Bagpuss was given his P45 and sent to La Manga.

In replacing him, Spurs followed the FA’s long standing model of England Managerial recruitment by appointing the polar opposite in the shape of ’thinking man’ Andre Villas-Boas or ‘AVB’ if your a bad meff. the Portugeuse joined Porto via his dad as a 3 year old, wrote his first tactical report for Bobby Robson aged 17 and was a key reason for Mourinho’s Porto and Chelsea success stories. The UK media have derided his methods seemingly because they are different and he does mad stuff like take notes on a pad. His deployment of ideas in the prem so far has had mixed results, but I’d sooner have someone like him than a Redknapp figure any day of the week. Also, anyone who invokes ridicule from the moronic inferno of Talksport / Soccer Saturday is surely doing something right.

In terms of change, despite what the self facilitating media node would have you believe, the squad bestowed Villas Boas wasn’t great with a general imbalance in key positions with 38 centre backs, stock piles of goalkeepers but just 1 forward and no deep lying playmaker.  In terms of transfers, Sigurdsson favoured Spurs cash to Liverpool and Brenny’s ‘ideology’ whilst a move for former toffee target Moutinho collapsed at the eleventh hour. Affordable quality was brought in through the excellent Dembele / Vertonghen with Dempsey also recruited.

On the ball….

Villa Boas has changed the playing style with Spurs playing more on the counter and less focused on possession with their share of the ball down on last seasons total from 56% to 48%.  Last season’s game was a good example of how Spurs would have plenty of the ball but struggle against sides who sit deep with Spurs having 65% of the ball but creating little as we edged out a classic Moyes 1-0. As is the case with sides who play on the break, they score freely away from home were sides will come at them more, shown by the fact that only Man Utd have scored more goals on their travels with Spurs scoring the most goals from open play (11) on the road.

At Chelsea, Villas-Boas  looked to play out from the back with a high defensive line and high pressure up field and there are similarities with this method at Spurs. Aaron Lennon appears to be the player who has most benefitted from playing further up the pitch with 2 goals and 3 assists and he will be the key man to watch from long diagonals given Baines natural offensive position and our high defensive line. Indeed, this was exactly how Spurs took the lead against us last season in the away fixture.  Gareth Bale is injured for this one but I’d doubt his absence will have as much an impact as it might against other sides. The Welshman is someone we have usually ‘done a number’ on tactically with Coleman invariably deployed as a defensive wide-man, last season tracking him from one flank to the other as Bale fruitlessly went in search of the ball. As a result of our approach, Bale has not registered a goal or assist in any of the league games against us.

Off the ball….

At the back, Spurs have only conceded 79 shots on their travels which is the second fewest in the division after Man City. Spurs left side has been viewed as a weakness by opponents with Bale not quite as studious with his defensive tracking as he was a few years ago and often this has left Vetonghen with 1 v 2 situations on the flank.  With Dawson injured, Gallas looks likely to start and the Frenchman always has the look of someone who could do something really daft particularly when defending from set plays. Moyes has a way of eeking out liabilities and praying on their weaknesses and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something cooked up for Gallas. Whilst Kyle Naughton did well in last week’s win at Fulham I could see Fellaini looking to play on his height deficit at the back post from crossing opportunities on the right, most probably from Hibbert.

Team News

Villas-Boas will tweak dependent on the opposition as he has shown this season, usually deploying a 4-2-3-1 but notably sending out a 4-4-2 and then changing to a 3 man defence in the derby defeat at the Emirates. Personnel wise, I’d expect Hugo Lloris to continue in goal with Naughton and Vertonghen in the full back slots with Gallas and Caulker will most likely be deployed in the centre back berths. In midfield, Dembele and the impressive Sandro will hold with Lennon (right) Sigurdsson (centre) and Dempsey (left) as the attacking midfield trio behind the ruthless Defoe. Adebayor is available after suspension and started the Europa league game up top with Defoe in a 4-4-2 but I’d expect him to return for the bench for this one.  This was roughly how they lined up last weekend as the player importance demonstrates…

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For us, Kevin Mirallas is hoping to be fit to start which could mean that we are close to full strength with the exception of our skipper. Naismith has done well of late but will be the most likely to drop out should the Belgian be fit to start this one. Victor Anichebe also has an outside chance of being involved.

Last season the sides setup like this in the Goodison clash….

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Everton are best prices with 11/10 with Coral whilst Spurs are best offered at. 86/29 with Pinnacle. The draw can be backed at with 33/13 also with Pinnacle.

Spurs had a less than taxing Europa League fixture tonight whilst we have had a full week to rest and prepare which would give us a slight advantage. Spurs form post European games has been decent though with just one defeat after Thursday night games, that coming at the Etihad last month.

Both games between the clubs last season ended in home wins to nil. In the last four at Goodison there have been on average 2 goals per game with an average of 2.3 goals per game during Moyes tenure. Spurs haven’t won at L4 in 5 seasons. Moyes came up against Villas-Boas 3 times last season with one win, one draw and one defeat with an average of 3 goals per game. The cert again will be in the both teams to score market, with our last 11 games delivering on this one (4/6 at willie hills).

Whereas we have drawn more games than any side in the league Spurs have either been very good or crud on their travels, winning 3, losing 4 and drawing 0. In terms of goal timing, the most likely time we score at home is between 21-40 mins with 68% of our goals coming in the first half of matches. You can get 9/2 with Willie Hills on our first goal to be scored between 31 mins and half time. A repeat of last season with Jelavic score anytime / efc win is offered at 10/3 with betfred. Score wise the likely outcome is 1-1 (13-2 willie hills) but I’m going for 2-1 Everton (8/1betfred)


Tactical Deconstruction: Man City 1-1 Everton

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Teams & Strategy

The Toffees team was the same as that which drew with Arsenal in midweek with City’s line-up providing more interest tactically.

It says something of the threat we carry when the Champions change their team selection significantly at home specifically to deal with the threat we carry. Despite an impressive run of clean sheets, Mancini broke up the defensive centre of Kompany and Nastasic to recall his best aerial stopper, ex-toffee Joleon Lescott whilst  key man Aguero was left out. When the Argentine was introduced it was top scorer Carlos Tevez who made way and not Dzeko. The Bosnian has a reputation as a ‘superb sub’ but is consistently selected against us from the start for his aerial ability in defending set plays.Post match Mancini said “You need your attackers to help you defend, especially when you play a team like Everton who are good at set pieces.” Yaya Toure, who is often moved further forward later on in games when City are chasing games as a more direct option, was also held back to a more withdrawn role which included marking duties on Fellaini from Tim Howard’s goal kicks.

At the back….

Our defensive approach was all about shape and making the pitch as small as possible. We didn’t really press our opponents; despite spending more time on the ball Man City made 50 pressing contacts (tackles, fouls and interceptions) compared to our 31. You would usually expect the opposite when a team has more of the ball like City.

Mancini’s post match rants about us are now customary but there is clear praise if you delve a bit deeper into his comments.  Post match the Italian talked about ‘no team’ being able to defend better than the Blues in the league, leading him to propose that there is ‘maybe no solution’ to break us down. High praise from an Italian coach well versed in the concept of catenaccio.

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Regulars will be familiar with our defensive approach against City and there was little new this time round. When out of possession our full backs tucked in, making the pitch as small as possible and forming a wall protecting the 18 yard box. The above visual shows this pretty well as City build a move from the back with Maicon the only out ball. City failed to create much from the 30+ crosses they swung in as we packed the box and won the bulk of the aerial duels.

A fusion of the quick speed it takes us to re-form this shape when possession is lost coupled with City’s often pedestrian build up produced a familiar end product; City controlled the ball in the middle ground with limited incision, creating pretty much the same as us in terms of clear cut chances. This was reflected by the fact that City’s most common passing combination was Gareth Barry/Yaya Toure, with the duo exchanging 28 passes in keeping with City’s  often pedestrian paced build up.

Going forward….

City dominated the ball as they usually do against us, with 59% of possession but only 51% of the territory, a sign that most of their possession was in the middle third of the pitch as mentioned above. We had more of the ball than last season’s encounter at Eastlands, making 42 more passes with 29 additional forward passes to last season’s total. In the first period our attack was a match for City’s whereas in the second we dropped off and allowed City more of the ball.

Whilst it’s not cool to say anything bad about Yaya Toure, the Ivorian had a pretty gash game here. Tasked with keeping Fellaini in check by any means necessary, in the build up to our goal he whacked the Belgian three times with no foul given. Only when Barry took Fellaini out at waist height did the referee blow for a foul. It was a good example of how the Belgian attracts 2/3 players at a time which creates space for others. From the resulting free kick, City get the ball back before Toure loses possession enabling the ace Gibson to intercept and feed Baines to whip in a trademark delivery. As he does excellently, Fellaini pulls to the back post away from larger centre backs and onto the aerially weaker fullbacks – this time it was Zabaleta – with the Argentine having no idea where the Belgian was which allowed him to power home at the second time of asking.

David Silva – a player Moyes man marked last season in this fixture – was not gives a similar shadow this time but again was completely snuffed out, failing to make any dribbles or create any chances in the 90 minutes. Silva was also given a defensive brief to assist Maicon stopping our lateral maraudings down the left flank. When Fellaini almost converted a Pienaar centre with Silva nowhere to be seen, Mancini appeared to lose his rag completely on the touchline with the duo seen exchanging moody vibes as the players trudged off for the interval.


This was another interesting battle between Moyes and Mancini.  Our approach was similar to recent seasons although we offered more going forward this time with a higher share of the ball. Our defensive shape was excellent in what was comfortably our best display of the season off the ball. A tough run of fixtures concludes next week when a win against Spurs could possibly see us rise as high as 3rd in the table – a situation most toffees would have taken at the start of this 3 game run against tasty opposition.